art 717-Richard Shusterman- Somaesthetics and gastronomy A few thoughts about the art of eating
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art 717-Richard Shusterman- Somaesthetics and gastronomy A few thoughts about the art of eating

When considering the aesthetics of gastronomy, one can focus on at least three separate, though closely interrelated, and sometimes overlapping dimensions. The first would consist of various, often complex processes, methods, goals, criteria, and experiences related to the preparation of food and drinks. The way of serving food and drinks (including necessary utensils such as crockery and cutlery) could also be included here.
We could call this dimension the „art of cuisine” and specify food preparation and serving. The second tier of aesthetic research and discussion would focus on the food products themselves and would include their properties relevant to aesthetic experience and judgment. These properties would include not only the formal and sensory features of these edible objects accessible to taste, smell, and other senses involved in the picking and evaluation of food but also the broader symbolic and social meanings of the various foods, including meanings relating to both their nutritional properties. and their importance. We could call this dimension of gastronomy the art of food appreciation and criticism. Aside from cookbooks, most of the literature on food appears to represent this species. Many people enjoy reading texts about eating and viewing food (in magazines or on the screen), without necessarily consuming the dishes and drinks presented, certainly not preparing them. There is, however, the third dimension of gastronomy, which includes various processes and considerations related to the absorption of food and drink by the body itself. An interest in how we eat and drink in relation to the modes and manners of digesting food can be considered an art of eating in a narrower, more strict, or more precise sense. First of all, the art of eating must be distinguished from the act of eating itself. Eating can be just habitual behavior driven by instinct – the absorption of food and drink in a completely thoughtless, automatic, and primitively insensitive manner. Eating edible products under the influence of hunger or thirst for blissful nourishment is the most basic behavior common to other animals, although the form of food proper to humans differs from that of animals, as it is deeply shaped by culture. The influence of culture is much more than just typical human cooking, which relates to the preparation and serving of food rather than to its consumption. Language-speaking human culture enables us to name or define what we eat, and therefore enables us to better choose, describe, acquire, and critically evaluate food and, consequently, to incorporate it into an organized, structured form or sequence that gives meaning to the act of eating. The very notion of linguistically defined meals (e.g. breakfast, lunch, and dinner), so different from disorderly foraging and feeding, highlights the way in which culture impresses on our eating habits. When Brillat-Savarin, an eminently intelligent founder of modern gastronomy, states that “the animals graze; man eats; but only an intelligent man can eat ”, he points to another distinction. To train basic human eating practices through acculturation and muscle memory is one thing, another is to master the secrets of a much deeper eating skill that requires intelligence, refined sensitivity, and focused reflection on the properties and effects (both taste and nutritional) of particular food options, preferences, and habits. Gourmets, of course, are those of the higher class of eaters who have a reflective knowledge of food and can express it eloquently. How should we classify this art? First, it is a fundamentally temporal art. The right time and playing time are in many ways the decisive factors for artistic success and aesthetic pleasures. In enjoying this art, the time sequence is an important element, not only in the sense that one dish leads to another, but also in the fact that one bite leads to the next, or in fact, to be precise, one bite leads to a complex sequence of sniffing. , biting, tasting, chewing, swallowing, and breathing. Each of these activities consists of its own multiple sensorimotor sequences, and yet it must be meticulously coordinated with the others for a pleasant, harmonizing rhythm to emerge that highlights the performative process of eating. Moreover, on a larger time scale, the various bites and phases of food absorption should form an aesthetically satisfying narrative structure of the beginning, middle, and end, covering the entire meal or individual dishes included in it. Time is therefore an important factor. In order to cook well, you cannot rush – eat well, or maybe even more so. Like music and dance, or paradigmatic temporal arts, is food a performative art whose aesthetic pleasure lies in the performative process of eating? This view can undoubtedly be argued against, arguing that the source of satisfaction in the art of eating is not really food itself, but the product eaten; thus, the essential aesthetic object in the art of eating is simply the food eaten, not the act of eating it. This unspoken assumption makes gastronomy largely focused on the food facility and the best ways to prepare and serve it. I understand, of course, the importance of food in the art of eating, but I believe that the art of eating goes far beyond the aesthetic qualities of eaten food. There is also a range of features and properties that characterize the activities that make up the very process of eating, provided that the process is carried out with skillful attention and care. The analogy from other areas of art will help us to shed light on this issue. The theater is undoubtedly a temporary and performative art, which is normally based on a literary work – the text of a drama – as its object. But the performing arts extend far beyond the aesthetic and artistic features of a literary script; its unique artistry and aesthetic experience lie in what an appropriately embodied dramatic performance makes to a text, how it makes present and enriches its aesthetic qualities, artistic meanings, and theatrical potential. The masterful art of theater not only enhances the artistic value inscribed in the text itself but also gives it separately, theatrical values. In the same way, eating as a fine art not only enhances the aesthetic pleasures anchored in what we eat; for it also gives the eaten food aesthetic pleasures that go beyond its own tastes, smells, and visual forms. These added pleasures are related to the soma-rooted movements and perceptions that make up the activities of eating and the way we perform these activities. The way we sip, slurp, or swallow can be pleasurable to us; satisfaction can be drawn from the arc drawn by the hand that lifts the fork to the mouth, from the warmth and weight of a cup of coffee in your hands, etc.

Before discussing the various aspects of our eating habits and their aesthetic potential, I should emphasize the multifaceted importance of eating as a performative art. This significance derives in part from the performative nature of the art; its artistic elements and styling properties are so closely related to the person who practices this art that their aesthetic effects transform the person aesthetically and become inseparable from him. It could be argued, therefore, that in this respect the art of eating supersedes the art of cooking because in cooking the valued goal is an external object – a dish – and not something that would be indispensable to the artist who creates and would influence him. A tasteless dish does not affect the cook unless he eats it.

Eating is a daily activity that is usually done at least three times a day. It is also a necessary activity without which we simply would not survive. It is also a universal activity since everyone has not only a natural need but also a natural ability to eat (which, of course, culture must develop into a real eating ability). For these reasons, eating is an extremely important activity, an activity that should be perfected as an art and improved as a practice. Improper eating habits can be harmful and lethal, and the benefits of improving the way we eat are many and varied. The first and most obvious of these is that perfecting your eating practices by focusing more carefully on them increases the pleasure you get from eating. This is because, generally speaking, when we focus more on pleasures, we can enjoy them in two ways, not only because we feel them more clearly, but also because we add the delight of reflection. The enjoyment of eating can be continuously intensified through practice because we eat as often and as long as we live. Food is an art that we can practice, improve and enjoy until old age, even when we lose the ability to practice arts or sports, already possessed in the earlier stages of life, although, of course, over the years we have to adjust our diet accordingly. The art of eating also includes reflection on our eating style, in relation not only to the food we eat but also to the way we eat it.

Yann Tom (2012). Somaflux avec Richard Shusterman performant l’Homme en or: Notre-Dame de Paris, 2012. Avec l’aimable autorisation du philosophe.
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